Jorge Roeder (solo double-bass) – El Suelo Mío – [TrackList follows] – self-released, 48:02 [7/3/20] ****:
Solo standup acoustic bass jazz albums are a rarity. It takes a specific type of musician to sustain interest; showcase a melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ability; and be both inventive and enjoyable. Past examples include two from Dave Holland: Emerald Tears (ECM, 1977) and Ones All (VeraBra, 1993); Eberhard Weber’s Pendulum (ECM,1993); and of course, Barre Phillips’ Journal Violone (Opus One, 1968), commonly attributed as the first solo bass record. This year’s entry into bass solo par excellence is Jorge Roeder’s 48-minute, 13-track, self-released El Suelo Mío. The intimate, beautifully recorded effort is available as a limited-edition CD or as a digital download. This review refers to the digital version.
Roeder has had an enduring association with guitarist Julian Lage (see 2019’s Love Hurts and 2011’s Gladwell); has been a member of John Zorn’s New Masada Quartet; and worked in trombonist Ryan Keberle’s jazz ensemble Catharsis. Roeder’s complete credits are lengthy. Roeder’s debut as a leader, El Suelo Mío, is sure to turn the heads of anyone who searches for this wonderful and congruous collection.
The material ranges from standards (Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and perennial “I’ll Remember April”); to originals; and there are several compositions which emanate from or include music from Roeder’s native Peru. The opening title track takes its title from the term ‘el suelo mío’ – which translates as ‘land of mine’ – and is from the lyrics of “Bello Durmiente” by Peruvian composer/songwriter María Isabel Granda Larco, better known as Chabuca Granda. Roeder modifies Granda’s first melodic phrase to display his own musical concepts. Roeder states ‘el suelo mío’ “represents the convergence of all the things this record is about. The phrase ‘el suelo mío’ can also be interpreted as ‘ground of mine,’ which references for me the role of the bass in music – the foundation. So, this body of work comes from the roots, the ‘ground’ of the music that is a part of me.” Roeder follows with the poetical and friendly “Chabuca Limeña,” a lyrical tribute by Spanish composer Manuel Alejandro to Granda, which has a flow similar to “El Suelo Mío” but demonstrates a faster pace.
One of Roeder’s avowed heroes is Charlie Haden. Roeder says, “The way Charlie expressed so much originality and emotional breadth in an unaccompanied setting has always been a prime source of inspiration.” Haden’s influence can be heard on the title track, and more keenly on Roeder’s “Rambler” (not the Bill Frisell composition), which illustrates Roeder’s adoration for Haden’s sensitivity and openness. “Rambler” is followed by an arco bass adaptation of “Lonely Woman,” which Haden initially did as part of Coleman’s group. Haden often revisited the tune. Roeder remembers, “I once caught a performance by Charlie and his Quartet West in San Francisco where he played a solo intro to ‘Lonely Woman’ that transformed the way I thought of solo bass.” Another person who has affected Roeder is his friend Lage. The compelling side-by-side “Patrona” and “Santa Rosita” comprise a two-section tribute to Lage. Roeder divulges Lage is “a guiding light in my artistic endeavors,” and “the way Julian approaches guitar improvisation while embracing his blues and Americana roots has shaped my own views of music and my instrument. He comes from Santa Rosa, California, which happens to be named after the patron saint of Lima, Peru.” One of the most unique numbers is “Thing-Thing,” where Roeder provides homage to jazz pianists, particularly Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Lennie Tristano. Roeder imparts, “The first three [Evans, Jarrett and Rubalcaba] recorded very distinct versions of ‘What Is This Thing Called Love,’ while Tristano’s rendition was titled ‘Subconscious-lee.’ Their interpretations of this song have always haunted me, each one for a different reason. I drew on the styles of all four pianists to create this piece.”
There are other sublime moments to appreciate, such as the 1930s-era “Silêncio de um Minuto” by Brazilian composer Noel Rosa; the affirmative “El Plebeyo” by Peruvian composer Felipe Pinglo Alva; and the driving “Solo Juntos” which honors Huayno, a popular dance/folk music style from the Andes mountains, which retains a distinctive beat. Roeder closes with “Les Lapins” [French for ‘Rabbits’], which acknowledges Roeder’s debt to his friend and colleague, drummer Ziv Ravitz, whose credits include Avishai Cohen, Mark Turner and Lee Konitz. Roeder reveals, “He’s more interested in solo bass than most bassists I know. He introduced me to the approaches of several different players and encouraged me to explore my own.” “Les Lapins” is a spontaneous creation which hints at Ravitz’s “Cinéma G” (from Ravitz’s 2009 album Images from Home; and 2015’s The Road to Ithaca, a trio outing with Ravitz, Roeder and pianist Shai Maestro).
El Suelo Mío is a superb audio experience. Roeder taped the music at The Garage studio in Brooklyn, with a decisively simple way. Roeder explains, “For this recording, I wanted to play completely acoustic, with no layering of any kind. I explored the natural polyphony that can be achieved on the bass. The instrument I use is a Hawkes ‘Concert’ from around 1905. It has a C extension that allowed me to experiment with different fundamental pedal points while maintaining the natural tuning of the low string. I used no alternate tuning.” For anyone who may not be inclined to hear an all-bass endeavor, Roeder clarifies, “I’m not aiming for people to be wowed by virtuosity, but more for a listener to come out the other side changed somehow, hopefully with more open ears or a more open mind or a more open heart, even if not necessarily knowing why or how.”
El Suelo Mío
I’ll Remember April
Silencio De Um Minuto